Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hall of Fame Debate - Arizona

Today, we're kicking off a new series here at Justin's World. Inspired by a good friend of mine, Brian, this is the first post in our "Hall of Fame Debate" series. What does that mean? Boy am I glad you asked. :)

It's pretty simple, really - let's say every collegiate softball team has their own Hall of Fame (as some actually do) to honor and pay tribute to the best of the best to ever put on that team's uniform. I bet you've already started thinking of players that you'd want your favorite team to enshrine.

Now, imagine that each team's HOF can only add five players, maximum. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - no more. Makes it a lot tougher, right? Well, that's exactly what we're going to do as a part of this series. Pick a team, and choose the top five players to be honored in their Hall of Fame. Remember, active players aren't eligible.

There'll be a different team each time, and this will be a regular series. I'll give you my thoughts on who I'd pick, but I also want you, the readers and fans, to get involved! You can comment here, on Facebook, or write your own article or post.

L-R, clockwise: Mowatt; Lowe;
Finch; Hollowell; Chambers
I couldn't think of a better team to kick a new series off than the Arizona Wildcats. Although they're floundering a bit this season, they are still one of, and arguably the greatest softball program in the country. Coach Mike Candrea is one of the top three coaches EVER, in my opinion, and I might even go so far as to say he's in the top two. Future Team USA and professional stars like Jennie Finch and Caitlin Lowe started out as Wildcats, and this was not an easy list to narrow down to just five. However, I gave it a go, and I'm looking forward to seeing what others come up with!

In no particular order, the five players that I would include in the Arizona Wildcats softball Hall of Fame are:

- Taryne Mowatt
     >>> Mowatt pitched and hit for the Wildcats from 2005-2008, but it was her arm that really got her a lot of attention. In her freshman season, Taryne's only loss came at the hands of eventual WCWS champions Michigan. That's as a freshman, now. If her first year was good, Mowatt's sophomore season was ten times better. In addition to being the program's first 20-game winner since  Alicia Hollowell, she was named to the all-WCWS team; threw both a perfect game and a no-hitter; and in the process of tossing a shutout of Arizona State, she also went 2-3 at the plate with a home run. Her junior season was arguably her finest, as she was named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player, collected 2nd-team NFCA All-American honors; and won two ESPY awards. And just a few simple stats from Taryne's 3rd season - 522 strikeouts; 42 victories; 1.46 ERA; and three no-hitters. (4th-year stats not immediately available).

- Caitlin Lowe
     >>> If you look in the dictionary next to the term "outfielder", while there may be a snapshot of Willie Mays' "The Catch" or Ichiro scaling the Safeco Field wall, sandwiched between the two is guaranteed to be a photo of Caitlin Lowe. World renowned for her amazing and often gravity-defying  web gems, Lowe's Wildcat career was full of awards and accolades. I'll try to list just some of them in a moment, but try and wrap your head around this statistic first: In her four seasons at Arizona, Lowe's LOWEST batting average in a season was .403. In her sophomore season, she hit .510. Yes, in very nearly 200 at-bats, she had more hits than she did putouts. Now, to attempt to list some of the contents of her trophy case... FOUR 1st-team All-American honors; 2 National Championship trophies; 2-time top 10 finalist for Collegiate Player of the Year; 2007 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the  Year; 2-time All-WCWS team; 2007 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Oh, yeah, and she also broke the school's steals record and never made a fielding error.

- Jennie Finch
     >>> How much really needs to be said about Jennie Finch? Widely regarded as one of, if not THE best in the business, before she was an international sensation and showing off her reflexes on yogurt commercials, Jennie had a dynamite career in a Wildcats uni. She put together a sixty-game win streak, spanning almost two full seasons, including the NCAA tournament and Women's College World Series. In 2000, she threw three consecutive no-hitters, in the postseason. Thanks to her utterly ridiculous dominance in the circle, what a lot of folks probably do not remember is her prowess with a bat in her hands. She clubbed fifty home runs in her career, and had a .300+ career batting average. She was also perfect in stolen base attempts, and took home 180 career RBI and 407 total bases.

- Stacie Chambers
     >>> During her term as the Wildcats' backstop/DP, Chambers made herself one of the most feared hitters in the country. With eighty-seven career moonshots, Stacie came up three home runs short of tying Stacey Nuveman's NCAA record of ninety. After redshirting what would have been her freshman year, Stacie came right out and asserted her rightful position as a member of the every day lineup. She got off to a flying start in her RS freshman campaign, as she dropped fifteen bombs over the fence. In her four seasons of actually getting to play ball, Stacie started and played in every single Wildcats game. Stacie knocked in 293 runs during her career, and tallied an .803 slugging percentage in her junior season.

- Alicia Hollowell
     >>> The star pitcher that kept the Wildcats at the top between the "reigns" of the two already mentioned, Hollowell could arguably be the best of them all, speaking solely of her time in a Wildcat uniform. She's a four-time All-American, holds multiple school records, including victories (134) and strikeouts (1,768). Add those numbers to an absolutely insane SEVENTEEN no-hitters, and you've got yourself a star. Hollowell was at the forefront, leading the Wildcat charge to the WCWS crown in 2006, and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player for her accomplishments. If you thumb through the record books in Tucson, you'd find Hollowell's name in there often. She was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago, in 2011.

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